(UPDATED FRIDAY MORNING: Paynter's owner, Ahmed Zayat, who turns 50 years old today, sent out the following Tweet at 8 a.m. EDT. “OMG OMG [Oh, my God], the power of prayer. Please keep praying. His white blood cell (count) is 9,000, which is nine times what it was. Good sign. Appetite improving. Best birthday gift. Will send more updates as we get them today.”)
Ahmed Zayat, in an emotional and highly detailed string of Twitter comments published early Thursday night, said the condition of his Grade 1-winning colt, Paynter, is “critical,” and that the next 24 hours will be crucial to his survival. Veterinarians are concerned that the infection and bacteria currently in Paynter's colon and intestines will travel through the bloodstream and infect other organs.
Paynter, the Belmont Stakes runner-up and winner of the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park July 29, was originally sent to a New Jersey equine clinic when he got sick following the Haskell. He recovered and shipped to Saratoga, where he was returned to light training by trainer Bob Baffert, though any hopes of running in the G1 Travers were lost. Baffert and Zayat thought the G2 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing Sept. 22 might be an option for the Awesome Again colt.
Last Sunday night, Paynter got sick again and he was taken to the Upstate Equine Medical Center in Schuylerville, N.Y., where veterinarians Laura Javsicas and Mark Cheney, among others, have tended to him. He was diagnosed with colitis, a serious and often fatal disorder that causes inflammation of the colon and digestive tract. Its symptoms include high fever and severe diarrhea. One of the concerns veterinarians have for horses with colitis is the onset of laminitis.
Zayat (@jazz3162 on Twitter) dictated a lengthy message to his son Justin, who posted it on his own Twitter account (@JustinZayat) as the family drove home from the clinic after spending several hours with Paynter. Another son, Benjamin, was with them.
“Please pray,” Zayat said after providing extensive details on his family's visit with Paynter, adding, “We are doing this for his fans.”
The complete text of Twitter comments from Ahmed Zayat (with minor editing) follows:
“We are driving back from Saratoga. Tough day. Very sad. We are very emotional. Our only consolation and comfort is the angel that is attending Paynter. She has not slept since Monday. An incredible professional vet who has not stopped crying since we have been there. Dr. Laura Javsicas. You can tell that she genuinely cares. She warned us that he lost around 100-plus pounds since Monday.
“He has been an unbelievable patient. Full of class and very easy to work with. He looked sad to me and depressed. I can feel his body temp and how high it is when I was touching him. His head was down low. Totally heartbreaking. I can see Benjamin totally tearing and trying to hold back his tears. He is a brave and class horse but he is not the Paynter I know. He still has a high fever and diarrhea. On the positive side, his feet are perfect, no discomfort at all. He is in critical condition; the next 24 hours are crucial. He needs to fight.
“I hope we gave him the love and care and encouragement to do that. With all your good wishes and prayer we will pull through that. Actually, as we were petting and kissing him, he started looking at us with his sad eye, kind of saying I know you are here for me.
“Justin tried to feed him when we first got in and he refused. After two hours he rubbed against Justin and was ready to eat. As you would expect, his appetite has been horrible. So he started eating fresh grass from Benjamin's hand as time went on. For the first time since Monday he went to his hay bin and Dr. Laura was very happy since it was his first eating hay since Monday. She had been trying to give him treats he didn't want. So I guess that is kind of positive.
“Our main concern is that his white blood cells go up so the infection and bacteria that are now in his colon and intestines don't travel through his bloodstream and infect other organs, and his body becomes septic. If that happens, that is the end of it.
“So again, next 24 hours are critical that this nightmare scenario doesn't happen. I am very comforted that the best vets and equine care from all over the country, so please pray. This was dictated by my dad as he is driving. We are doing this for his fans.”
Dr. Cheney, reached by telephone Thursday evening, said Paynter's diarrhea had “slowed down a little today.” Cheney said he thought Paynter's health appeared to be improving Wednesday, but then “he had a high temperature last night.”
Paynter hasn't shown any signs of developing laminitis, Cheney confirmed. “That's a good sign,” he added. “He has not suffered at all.” Cheney also said Paynter tested negative for salmonella and Potomac Horse Fever, both of which can be the cause of colitis.
Dr. Javsicas “has done a magnificent job” caring for the horse, Cheney said, adding that she had called him Thursday evening to say that Paynter “took a little turn for the better” in just the last few hours.
“When I was with him yesterday, he turned his head around and I gave him a little kiss on the nose,” Cheney said. “He looked at me like ‘I got a chance of beating this thing.' That's what we need to hope and pray for.”
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